The News You Need To Know

The collection of news below has been compiled by Linda Toews, AWI President-Elect. Thank you Linda for all your had work in gathering this information.

Breaking COVID News

Premier Scott Moe has announced the end of restrictions schedule in Saskatchewan. As of Monday, February 14, the vaccine passport will be eliminated. Quebec has also announced a lifting of restrictions. Ontario is looking at their options.

In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney has announced that the Restrictions Exemption Program will end at midnight tonight. Capacity restrictions will also be lifted on venues accommodating 500 and less, including libraries and places of worship. Mandatory masking for all children and youth in schools and for youth aged 12 and under in any setting will end February 13 at 11:59 pm.

The Alberta Plan will proceed in 3 stages as given below.

Step one

Effective Feb. 8 at 11:59 p.m.:

· Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) ends, along with most associated restrictions.

· Entertainment venues will continue to have some specific rules in place:

o Restrictions on sale of food and beverages and consumption while seated in audience settings will be removed.

o Restrictions on closing times, alcohol service, table capacity in restaurants and interactive activities will remain in force.

· For all businesses, venues and facilities – whether they were previously eligible for the REP or not – capacity limits are removed, except for:

o Facilities with capacity of 500 to 1,000, which will be limited to 500.

o Facilities with capacity of 1,000-plus, which will be limited to 50 per cent.

Effective at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 13:

· Masks will no longer be required for all children and youth in schools.

· Masks will no longer be required in any setting for children aged 12 and under.

Step two

Effective March 1:

· Any remaining provincial school requirements (including cohorting) will be removed.

· Screening prior to youth activities will no longer be required.

· Capacity limits will be lifted for all venues.

· Limits on social gatherings will be removed.

· Provincial mask mandate will be removed.

· Mandatory work from home removed.

Step three

To be determined based on hospitalization rates continuing to trend downwards

· COVID-specific measures in continuing care will be removed.

· Mandatory isolation becomes a recommendation only.

Additional details on all restrictions and measures in place will be released prior to each step at alberta.ca/CovidMeasures.

Around the World

Many countries, including UK, Finland, other European countries have all lifted restrictions. UK lifted them 3 weeks ago. Many US states have also lifted or are moving toward lifting restrictions. California lifted masking today.

ALBERTA

Alberta continues to create new jobs

Alberta continues to see new jobs created in our province, which demonstrates the ongoing momentum of our economic recovery. In a month that saw 200,000 job losses across the country and an increase in national unemployment rate, Alberta gained 7,000 jobs and saw its unemployment rate drop further. Alberta leads the country with its 64.5 per cent employment rate.

Alberta remains a business and entrepreneur-friendly jurisdiction with a high quality of life and a low cost of living, which is why we saw record-breaking investment last year and why we can look forward to more investment in 2022.

Some key facts:

· Alberta’s unemployment rate has dropped 3.6 per cent from 10.8 per cent in January 2021 to 7.2 per cent in January 2022.

· Alberta continues to lead the provinces with an employment rate of 64.5 per cent.

· Alberta has regained all the jobs that were lost since the pandemic began.

· Only BC, AB, SK, MB, NS saw job gains.

· Only BC, AB, MB, NS saw a drop in their unemployment rate (SK unchanged).

For more information, see news release:

January Labour Force Survey: Minister Schweitzer | alberta.ca

More support for Alberta children living with diabetes

Diabetes is a serious health issue and the constant monitoring required can be complex and challenging, especially for young people and their families. That’s why eligible Albertans younger than 18 years, who are insulin dependent, can now get coverage for continuous glucose monitors though government-sponsored health benefit plans.

Providing young Albertans with the latest technology means they can maintain or even improve their health and wellbeing. A health technology assessment of diabetes devices found that young Albertans benefit the most from the support provided by this advanced equipment. More than 1,500 children will benefit from this expanded coverage, and parents will save $4,200 annually for the cost of the continuous glucose monitoring system.

This expanded coverage is part of the government’s broader three-part plan to provide improved support and technologies to Albertans living with diabetes.

Phase one of the government’s plan, implemented in August 2021, provides expanded coverage for diabetes test strips and other diabetes supplies.
Phase two of Phase one of the government’s plan, implemented in August 2021, provides expanded coverage for diabetes test strips and other diabetes supplies.
The third and final phase will be announced in the coming months.

Background:

· About 386,000 Albertans are living with diabetes and that number is expected to increase to more than 550,000 by 2031.

· In 2020-2021, the government spent nearly $155 million on diabetes medication and supplies. In addition, more than $20 million was spent to provide the Insulin Pump Therapy Program.

· In August 2021, Alberta’s government expanded coverage for blood glucose test strips and other diabetes supplies for Albertans with government-sponsored health benefit plans. This expanded coverage was phase one of the government’s plan to provide improved care to Albertans living with diabetes.

For more information, see news release:

More support for Alberta children living with diabetes

Masking and insurance in schools

(Note: much of the masking requirements will soon be unnecessary).

MLAs have heard from constituents that insurance companies are requiring school authorities to mask K-12 students indefinitely in order to be approved for Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance. These reports are inaccurate.

Alberta Education has received the following comments from the insurance broker, Marsh, who is the broker for both ARMIC and USIC:

Reports that insurance companies are requiring school authorities to mask K-12 students indefinitely in order to be approved for CGL insurance are not based on current insurance standards.
CGL insurance provides coverage for liability claims arising from bodily injury and property damage to others as a result of a business’ operations. While many work sites have CGL insurance, it is not as common for schools.
· The prevailing sentiment, at least in the insurance industry, has shifted from uncertainty to adaptation.

· As more individuals become vaccinated (77.68% total population in Canada, 48.35% 5-11 years single dose, and 3.2% 5-11 years of age fully vaccinated as of this e-mail) and more countries moving to treating COVID 19 as endemic, our view of 2022 is that the pressure for masking in the general public and in schools will subside.

· As the Omicron variant subsides and ICU beds are made available again, Marsh believes the pressure to maintain mandatory masking in indoor settings will decrease.

The Buffalo Trail Public Schools Board of Trustees had a meeting on Jan. 28 passing a motion amending their back to school 2021-2022 plan, specifically the masking exemption section, ensure that staff and students with mask exemptions not be segregated or discriminated against:

· To date, 14 schools have received an exemption to masking protocols which apply to the entire school. While Alberta Health does not grant individual masking exemptions, they have the ability to grant an entire school an exemption from the mask requirement as per Section 13.11 – 13.13 in CMOH Order 55-2021.They are required to follow the guidelines in CMOH Order 55-2021.

· To be exempted from the masking requirement by the chief medical officer of health, a school needs to implement an alternate COVID-19 safety plan, which they must post online, that ensures all students, staff members and visitors maintain a minimum of two metres distance from every other person while attending an indoor location within a school. To obtain the exemption, schools must contact Alberta Health.

· Alberta Education is aware of some complaints regarding this matter. The ministry has connected with the school authority to confirm they are aware and are working to resolve this issue.

Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park expansion

The Government of Alberta has finalized expansion of the Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland (KNW) Provincial Park in northeast Alberta – adding over 375,000 acres to the existing park in northeast Alberta, and to the largest contiguous area of protected boreal forest in the world. This is a prime example of how Alberta’s energy companies and Indigenous communities working together can help achieve desired outcomes on Alberta’s Crown lands.

The park expansion is a result of collaboration between the Alberta government, the Government of Canada, Indigenous communities and industry, dating back to 2019. The Mikisew Cree First Nation led the collaborative discussions and several companies surrendered Crown mineral agreements to make the expansion possible.

The expanded KNW Park will support Indigenous peoples’ traditional activities, protect the Peace-Athabasca watershed south of Wood Buffalo National Park, and conserve critical habitat for woodland caribou and bison. Reconciliation is a priority for Alberta’s government. As partners in reconciliation, we are listening to and working with Indigenous Peoples in Alberta to determine the best ways forward to a better future.

Alberta’s government is investing more than $300 million in 2020 and 2021 combined to enhance outdoor recreational opportunities, natural features and buildings in provincial parks and on public lands. All parks in Alberta’s parks system remain open and under the ownership of Environment and Parks. All continue to be protected under legislation.

For more information, see news release:

https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=81831505BD314-E6A4-4BC7-BAFF0D309BB93947

Supporting first responders’ mental health

Alberta’s government has launched the Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders grant program. The program provides funding for non-profit organizations that provide services to first responders and emergency health-care workers living with or at risk for PTSI and to individuals or organizations who conduct applied research related to PTSI.

The program provides grants to non-profit organizations that provide services to first responders and emergency health-care workers living with or at risk for PTSI. The program also provides grants for applied research to develop and evaluate effective programs and services for first responders and emergency health-care workers living with or at risk for PTSI. Nine grants for the 2021-22 period were successful for a total of $1,504,149 in funding.

2020-21 grant recipients:

Service providers

Alberta Critical Incident Provincial Network ($99,875) – Funding supports training of up to 200 first responders to receive their certified peer support designation to assist in-house delivery of resilience training.
Alberta Fire Fighters’ Association ($134,662) – Funding supports cultural competency training of dedicated health care professionals who seek to provide care for first responders throughout Alberta.
Edmonton Fire Rescue Services ($40,000) – Funding supports the development of a mobile application for fire services personnel to enhance help-seeking behaviors, increase accessibility to resources and increase the use of strategies to prevent development of PTSIs.
Wellness Works Canada ($31,600) – Funding supports mental health and resiliency training for first responders in Edmonton and Calgary.

Researchers

Bonnie Lashewicz, University of Calgary ($209,525) – Funding supports a development study of a toolkit to help prevent moral injuries among long-term care workers.
Suzette Brémault-Phillips, University of Alberta ($206,137) – This project will examine whether virtual delivery of trauma therapies works as well as in-person therapy for trauma-affected people and the impact virtual delivery has on therapy providers.
Linda Duffett-Leger, University of Calgary ($201,614) – The aim of this project is to rapidly transition support programs for families of first responders to virtual delivery.
Rose Ricciardelli, Memorial University of Newfoundland ($187,966) – This project will look at how COVID-19 and the overall correctional work experience are impacting the mental health and well-being of correctional staff in order to design a strategy to meet their health needs and encourage post-traumatic growth.
Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health ($172,820) – The researchers propose to gather and synthesize evidence about the prevention of PTSI work disability from the scientific evidence with current practices and experiences of first responder organizations in Alberta and internationally.
Vincent Agyapong, University of Alberta ($150,000) – This project involves implementing and evaluating Text4PTSI, a novel digital health program that provides daily supportive, therapeutic and educational text messages to first responders experiencing PTSI.
Doug Gross, University of Alberta ($49,494) – Using data from WCB-Alberta, the researchers will study risk factors for developing PTSI following a physical injury to a first responder.

News release:

Supporting first responders’ mental health | alberta.ca

Helping rural communities attract new doctors

Applications open Feb. 1 for a program providing benefits to bring new family physicians to rural Alberta.

The Rural Education Supplement and Integrated Doctor Experience (RESIDE) program is providing $2 million for 60 new family physicians, 20 each year for the next three years, to practice in 15 identified rural or remote communities of need. The first group of successful participants starts this fall. The Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP), a trusted organization with over 30 years experience supporting the efforts of rural Albertans, will administer the $6 million RESIDE program.

Interested new-in-practice family physicians can apply starting Feb. 1,2022 by filling out an application form on the Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP) website. The deadline is March 31, 2022.

Family physicians working in specific communities will be eligible for $60,000 for undergraduate tuition fee reimbursement, as well as a remote community incentive ranging from $20,000 to $40,000, depending on the community’s remoteness. In exchange, successful physicians will provide three years of service in a designated rural community.
RESIDE will play a vital role in attracting new physicians to Alberta’s rural and remote communities, demonstrating Alberta’s government’s commitment to ensuring rural Albertans can access the health care they deserve, close to home.
RESIDE is part of $90 million committed by the province to addressing rural recruitment and retention of physicians this year.
Quick facts:

Communities eligible to receive a physician under RESIDE are chosen each year based on the available process. 15 communities have been identified for the first year of the program and further communities will be identified in subsequent years:
Fox Creek
Grande Cache
Fort Vermilion
Wabasca
High Level
Rimbey
Lloydminster
Milk River
Cold Lake
Lac La Biche
Rocky Mountain House
Fort Macleod
Barrhead
Ponoka
Athabasca
A RESIDE program application process will take place each year, open to all family medicine resident physicians completing their residency training this year interested in practising in rural and remote parts of Alberta.
Successful applicants will be chosen by a committee of representatives from Alberta Health, RhPAP, the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, communities of need and Alberta Health Services. Selection will be based on fit for the community and the available job, as well as where an applicant is from and well as their experience working in a rural area.
Factors including rural upbringing, positive undergraduate rural exposure and targeted postgraduate exposure outside urban areas are consistently associated with greater probability of physicians choosing to practise in rural communities.
Alberta’s government is spending about $90 million in total in 2021-22 to address rural physician recruitment and retention:
Rural and Remote Northern Program: $57 million
Rural Medical Education (RME): $6 million
Rural Integrated Community Clerkship program (RICC): $4 million
Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP): $9 million, including $2 million for RESIDE
Locum programs: $3 million
Rural Physician On Call Program (POC): $12 million
Alberta has one of the most generous rural physician recruitment and retention programs and among the highest overall physician compensation in Canada.
News release:

https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=81818F463978F-04A5-4B8A-9BB4573775071AC

Turning health innovation into reality

Alberta’s government has announced over $6 million in funding for three projects in Alberta Innovates’ Health Innovation Platform Partnerships program.

This investment through Alberta Innovates will give our innovative small and medium-sized enterprises access to the platforms, infrastructure, tools, and resources they need to turn their ground-breaking health innovations into reality.

Helping our innovators develop new solutions and technologies to improve care, and bring them to market isn’t just good for Albertans’ health, it’s creating jobs right here in Alberta.

Background:

Alberta Innovates’ Health Innovation Platform Partnerships program was launched in September 2020.
The program seeks to build a health innovation ecosystem that is robust, coordinated, and provides a competitive advantage for Alberta innovators in the health industry.
This investment is part of Alberta Innovates’ strategy to create a digital health industry in the province that serves as a competitive advantage for innovators and delivers better health outcomes for Albertans.

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